Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – REVIEW

A lifetime holding it together.
One party will bring it crashing down.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the centre of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud-because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own-including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Hutchinson.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“Small boundaries broken, snapped like tiny twigs, so many that June barely noticed he was coming for the whole tree.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid has once again crafted a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that will stay with the reader long after finishing. Set in Malibu in 1983, the first half of the book explores the history of the Riva family as they prepare for their annual end-of-summer party. As is to be expected from this author, there are some truly exquisite passages that are beautifully crafted and elegant, capturing a character within a few sentences or painting a portrait with one phrase.

“But they were in love, the kind of love that hurts. They hit highs so high neither of them could quite stand it, and lows so low they weren’t sure they’d survive them.”

The four siblings – Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit – are the children of famous singer and absent father, Mick Riva (who fans will recognise from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo). All in their early twenties, the reader is slowly introduced to each one and how their upbringing has impacted them. Surfing is a prominent theme that binds the four siblings together and shapes their personalities. It means different things to each sibling – escape, fame, family, career – but remains a constant in their lives against a backdrop of abandonment and grief. 

“Alcoholism is a disease with many faces, and some of them look beautiful.”

Using flashbacks beginning in 1956, the story charts how their parents, Mick and June, first met and their ensuing tumultuous marriage. The beautiful prose weaves a mesmeric tale of toxic relationships, abandonment, betrayal and shattered dreams. June was a particularly sympathetic character and her tragic story was one of love, perseverance, and disappointment. The author spins a richly-complex story of families and the imperfection of parents.

“Family is found…whether it be blood or circumstance or choice, what binds us does not matter. All that matters is that we are bound.”

The second half of the story takes place over a twelve-hour period, with the actions and decisions of the first half coming to an inevitable collision. The secrets of all four siblings are eventually revealed and I loved how the author resolved everything between them. Fire is a recurring motif, reminding the reader that sometimes destruction is a cathartic experience necessary to make way for renewal. Malibu Rising is another incredible story from one of my favourite authors and deserves all the hype it’s no doubt going to generate.

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones)

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